Commonly Misused Words: To, Too and Two
Maybe it’s me because I make my living helping other people learn how to write more professionally, but I think we’ve all had the experience of finding typos in a variety of places.
In news articles
But one of the grammatical errors that is so common – and yet so easily avoided – is the confusion around to, too, and two.
Let’s Face It: We’re Being Judged
I once had a grammar school teacher say, “Just as you are judged by the company you keep, so you are judged by the English you speak (and write).”
Think about it: as business professionals, we’re always being judged – or evaluated if you prefer that term. Can we be taken seriously? Do we know our content? Are we really subject matter experts?
And sometimes, until our audience has “hard data” – proof, confirmation – that we do know our subject matter area, we’ll often be judged on other things – like if we can use to, too or two correctly.
To, Too, or Two? A Simple Test
So how do you know when to use to, too or two?
To often indicates action toward something. Example: Please give this to your supervisor.
Too is used to show something is in excess or meaning also. Example: You’re using too many words. (An excessive amount of words.)
Or: Can I have a day off too? (Meaning also.)
Two is the spelled-out version of the number 2. Example: Table for two, please.
So how do you know if you’ve used the right version of to? Try substituting the word “also” or asking yourself if you’re indicating a quantity in your sentence.
Example: so as in the previous sentence, please give this to your supervisor, substituting “also” (Please give this also your supervisor) makes no sense, nor are you indicating a quantity of anything here. So “to” is the right form of the word.
Options for Catching Your Errors
We all make the occasional typo or grammatical mistake – yes, even me.
But what’s important is to recognize this challenge, and then do something about it.
First, you can try to improve your own writing – particularly if you know certain words (like too and to) are problems for you.
Or, you can find someone within your workgroup or office who is great at proofreading, and ask them to occasionally review your materials before they are sent to your boss or to clients.
A third option is to pay close attention to Word’s grammar/spell checker or to use tools like Grammar.ly to help catch mistakes in your writing.
Don’t Leave “Spinach in Your Teeth”
Having typos or misused words in your content is like having spinach stuck in your teeth. Once there’s something stuck in your teeth, it’s the only thing that people see – they’re completely distracted from what you’re saying.
Just as you might take the time to double check yourself in a mirror just after lunch, take the time to “groom” your writing before sending it out.